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Over fifty per cent of organisations shifted their entire business operations to digital during the pandemic 

Coeus Consulting, an award-winning independent IT advisory, today announced findings from its annual CIO and IT Leadership Survey 2021. The survey of senior IT leaders explored how they have had to urgently prioritise and accelerate programmes during the pandemic over the past 12 months.

Remarkably, over half (53%) claimed they were able to implement a strategic shift of their entire business operations to digital and almost three quarters (68%) of respondents either strongly, or generally agreed, that acceleration helped them to digitalise more of their operations.

Half of organisations were still amid their digital journeys or in the planning stages when they had to re-prioritise and pause non-urgent initiatives to focus on operational continuity during the pandemic. In fact, 70 per cent of organisations surveyed prioritised end user solutions (EUS) such as remote working, 52 per cent prioritised operational stability, closely followed by cost optimisation (50%).

 “The proficiency that businesses have demonstrated in their prioritisation and acceleration of critical initiatives is a huge triumph. Being able to re-direct resources and cutting down their time to market in digitalising the organisation is no easy feat, particularly in the throes of a global pandemic” said Ben Barry, Director, Coeus Consulting.

Despite this, the speed at which organisations were forced to adapt meant that short term and tactical business decisions had to be made, with over three-quarters (78%) of respondents stating they had implemented ‘quick fix’ solutions.                              

“Businesses will need to revisit these over the coming months to build on these capabilities with more permanent solutions for the future and ensure that all changes made in response to the pandemic are assessed to identify any tactical risks accepted and create a plan to mitigate, update or accept all of them” Barry continued.

As a result of deploying ‘quick-fix’ solutions, organisations were confronted with operational, as well as strategic difficulties including agreeing priority changes, implementing the solution and post implementation, each of which encompassed numerous challenges.  

  • Challenges in agreeing the priorities for 2020 included security, which was key for over half of the respondents. This was followed by governance constraints (44%), business risk aversion (37%), employee reluctance/education (32%) and board level resistance (22%).
  • Fifty per cent of respondents cited cost of implementation as the biggest challenge, followed by delivery of bandwidth (42%), integration difficulties (41%) and lack of skills and expertise (37%).
  • Post implementation challenges included respondents experiencing negative process impacts (53%) and increased operating costs (45%). Customer and user perceptions were also adversely affected for almost 40 per cent as organisations tackled uncertainty and their own internal changes.

These factors were likely exacerbated by the fact that business and IT leaders had to make these decisions rapidly and in a short time frame, having to balance risk with maintaining operational continuity.

Additionally, 82 per cent agreed that business and IT leadership played a key role in improving ways of working and minimising disruption across the business. Furthermore, almost 70 per cent of respondents stated that IT leaders were crucial in accelerating large scale deployments in EUS and about a third prioritised initiatives in improving customer experience, increasing revenues and developing or changing products.

Almost two-thirds of organisations noted they had received additional funding to help accelerate priority projects, but a large majority of those surveyed (63%) agreed that re-scoping, undoing projects, renegotiating and stalling contracts, as well as redeploying resources, will likely cause ongoing business impacts, and we would expect the cost of doing so to be significantly high.

Despite challenges with costs, the IT budget expectations show that CIOs across all sectors are expecting their budgets to remain untouched (28.6%) or increase (22.1%) as businesses recognise that IT is a critical part of delivery in all sectors.

Barry concluded – “As we move forward, organisations must reflect on these implementations, challenges and the role of IT as they look to establish a more permanent shift to a new hybrid workforce in the future.

IT Leaders and their teams have had a great opportunity to show their value and will continue to drive the strategic agenda in 2021 and beyond. This increased visibility and the business’ dependence on IT has given them an opportunity to demonstrate that IT leads in terms of business transformation, and should be funded accordingly.”

You can view the full report here